Affordances are one of the theories of perception in Environmental Psychology. According to Gibson, affordances are how we perceive environments as ways to afford us our needs.
There are things in the environment which allow us to meet our needs. These needs can be anything from the shade, food, parking, safe walking, sitting, activities, etc. When an environment meets almost all of an individual’s needs, it is an ecological niche. This would be the environment which is most optimal for that individual.
According to Mariela Alfonzo’s 2005 study, individuals base their decision to walk on environmental factors and how those factors fit their desired affordances. The hierarchy of needs for walking begins with feasibility, accessibility, safety, comfort, and finally pleasurability. Like in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if the first need is not met, then an individual does not proceed to the next level.
If an environment does not provide or afford, the necessary items then individuals are less likely to interact with the environment. It is important when designing spaces to consider a variety of affordances so the environment can appeal to a variety of optimal levels of affordances.
Watch this video on affordances to learn more!
Alfonzo, M.A. (2005). To walk or not to walk? The hierarchy of walking needs. Environment and Behavior, 37, 808-836. DOI: 10.1177/0013916504274016